Why Each SEC Team Will Win in the Round of 64

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 17th, 2015

You printed out your bracket and you were sly enough to carry it in your portfolio into the Monday morning staff meeting. All you need now is for the office suck-up to bring in kolaches (ask the College Station folks if you’ve never had one!), a working pen (you really forgot to bring a pen to the staff meeting?), and a reason to advance every SEC team into the Round of 32 and beyond.

How about a good luck kiss for your bracket? (photo via @ukphotogs)

How about a good luck kiss for your bracket? (photo via @ukphotogs)

The SEC put five teams into the Big Dance but the casual college basketball fan who started paying attention in March doesn’t realize that the conference actually packs a bit more of a punch this season. At the same time, do you really trust teams that are coming off a loss to Auburn to advance deep into the tournament? Before you decide to be the SEC homer that has Georgia vs. LSU in the Elite Eight, lets focus first on how each SEC team can get to the Round of 32.

Kentucky. If you need to be convinced that Kentucky can win its first game then consider saving the $5 you were going to put into the office pool and buy five of those chocolate bars that Lois from accounting is selling for her grandson’s school fundraiser. For the sake of a good argument, lets assume Manhattan beats Hampton tonight. Former Kentucky player Steve Masiello would love an opportunity to end the Wildcats’ pursuit of perfection on his mentor Rick Pitino’s home court. Masiello has something that none of the current Wildcats yet have, a degree from the University of Kentucky. So there’s that. Is there any valid reason to think the Jaspers could pull off a victory though? Well, to get to this point, Manhattan will have beaten Iona. Iona beat Wake Forest. Wake beat North Carolina State. NC State beat Duke. But Duke didn’t beat Kentucky. Nobody has. And there’s not much reason to think that Manhattan will either. Moving on.

Arkansas. Southern Conference champion Wofford, the tiny school with 1,600 students, will march down to Jacksonville and take on the mighty Razorbacks. It would make for such a great story for the Terriers to hold their own, but as Greg Mitchell mentioned here, Arkansas has a 6’11” guy named Bobby Portis. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s the reigning SEC Player of the Year, and while he has struggled in the last couple of games, I would look for him to get back on track against the SoCon champs. Wofford’s tallest starter is 6’7” and it will be tough for him to check Portis for 40 minutes. The Terriers can probably keep it close for a half, but the Razorbacks will prove to be too big, too tough and too fast in the end.

Ole Miss. If you’re looking for a reason to write down Ole Miss into your Round of 32, look no further than Stefan Moody. You might see more defense at an NBA All-Star game than you will during the BYU-Ole Miss game, and that gives me reason to think that Moody will catch fire. I’m not convinced that Xavier’s defense in the next round will be able to stop him either. When Moody plays well, so do the Rebels, and I think Moody is headed towards a couple of 20-point games this week. Look at how Andy Kennedy’s squad performs when Moody gets at least 20.

When Moody plays well, Ole Miss follows suit.

When Moody plays well, Ole Miss follows suit.

Georgia. Michigan State comes into the NCAA Tournament having won four of its last five games, falling short only in an overtime loss on Sunday to Wisconsin. If you’re looking for the slightest reason to write down Georgia’s name instead of Michigan State, free throws might be your tipping point. The Bulldogs rank seventh in the country in free throw rate (the measure of a team’s ability to get to the free throw line), while the Spartans don’t get to the line too often (302nd in the country) and don’t usually convert when they do get there (337th in free throw percentage). If this game is close, and I suspect that it will be, Georgia’s ability to get to the foul line could end up being the difference.

LSU. LSU certainly has the talent to beat NC State, but do we really trust Johnny Jones’ club? The Tigers beat West Virginia, Georgia, Ole Miss and Arkansas (and came within two points against Kentucky), but they also lost to Missouri, Mississippi State, and Auburn (twice). At the same time, does the Wolfpack have anybody inside to defend against the fearsome duo of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey? If the Tigers are going to win this game, it will be because they dominate the category of points in the paint. NC State has some head-scratching losses itself, so this one could be a toss-up.

Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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